A Brief History
On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus, the Italian adventurer sailing into the unknown in the name of the Spanish Crown, landed in the Bahamas, the landing that became known as the “discovery” of America (or, “The New World” if you prefer). In New York City, 300 years later, the first “Columbus Day” was celebrated, an event that became a regular holiday in the United States, a day especially treasured by Italian-Americans, and Italians everywhere. (Note: Columbus Day 2017 is celebrated on Monday, October 9th.)
Christopher Columbus is ranked among the greatest explorers and discoverers of History, remembered in the name of cities, parks, schools, streets and other places, and the subject of many books, statues, and monuments. Unfortunately, not all people and not all Americans are so enamored of old Chris Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo, or Cristobal Colon in Italian or Spanish), most especially those Native Americans that recognize Columbus as a cruel slave grabbing tyrant willing to murder Indians that did not submit to the religion and rule of the Spanish.
In the United States, Columbus Day has been a Federal Holiday since 1937, on October 12, but in 1970 the holiday was changed to the second Monday in October. Most banks and many schools are closed on Columbus Day, as is the Post Office, but many state and local governments no longer observe the holiday. In fact, Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Vermont do not observe Columbus Day. Instead, Vermont celebrates “Indigenous Peoples Day” and South Dakota celebrates “Native American Day,” both a direct slap at Columbus in favor of the Native people the Europeans displaced. Hawaii instead celebrates “Discoverers’ Day” in honor of the Polynesians that first settled Hawaii. Some other states do not recognize the holiday, but celebrate it anyway, while many local governments go about business as usual without acknowledging Columbus, though other localities have some sort of day to honor Native Americans.
Meanwhile, many Latin American countries have a celebration that includes their Spanish and their Native American (and sometimes African) heritage.
Along with the many heroes of the Confederacy, Christopher Columbus has become something of a racial issue in the United States, and many revisionist minded people want him to be portrayed in history books as a slave master and murderer that brought misery and pain to the Americas instead of the founder of a wonderful New World. A movement to strip Columbus of his many honors and removal of his monuments is slowly starting and will probably gain momentum in the manner of the de-Confederatization of America. Objections to the honoring of Columbus date back over a century, but only recently has the movement become a cause celebre, mostly by Native Americans, non-Catholics, and European apologists.
Question for students (and subscribers): Where will the legacy of Christopher Columbus end up? Will the capital of Ohio be renamed in honor of a Native American Chief? Will the District of Columbia and the other thousands of places and companies named “Columbia” or some form of “Columbus” all be changed? Is the name of this explorer an insult to all Native American people? Will the holiday disappear, the statues be taken down, the history books rewritten? Please share your opinions on this contentious topic, whether you are for or against Columbus and his legacy in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Rafael. Christopher Columbus The Hero: Defending Columbus From Modern Day Revisionism. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.
The featured image in this article, First Landing of Columbus on the Shores of the New World; painting by Dióscoro Puebla (1862), is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.